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Germany to speed up green energy projects in ‘gigantic’ effort

Germany's Climate and Energy Minister Robert Habeck on Tuesday pledged to drastically ramp up renewable energy projects in the coming years, saying the country faced a "gigantic" task to meet climate protection goals.

Germany's Climate and Energy Minister Robert Habeck before Tuesday's press conference in Berlin
Germany's Climate and Energy Minister Robert Habeck before Tuesday's press conference in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Germany needs to become “more efficient and faster” in the fight against climate change, Green party minister Habeck said, as he unveiled an ambitious package of measures to help make Europe’s top economy carbon neutral by 2045.

Among the most eye-catching proposals was the pledge to set aside two percent of Germany’s land surface for wind energy projects, up from around 0.5 percent currently.

Habeck – who heads a “super ministry” of energy, climate protection and the economy in the new German government – promised to cut red tape to make it easier to get wind projects approved.

He also called on citizens and regional authorities to show greater acceptance for wind turbines, after local objections often blocked such projects in the past.

“Everyone needs to cooperate,” Habeck told reporters.

READ ALSO: German government sets outs plans for €60 billion ‘future’ fund

As part of a “solar acceleration” plan, solar panels will be mandatory on new commercial buildings and become the norm on new-build homes, Habeck added.

Germany’s coalition government — which took over from Angela Merkel’s cabinet last month and is made up of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the pro-business FDP — aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

Also by 2030, the country wants to exit coal and have renewables account for 80 percent of Germany’s electricity mix.

Habeck said the country was “significantly behind” in reaching those targets and faced a “task that is huge, gigantic” to get back on track.

The share of renewable energies currently hovers at just over 40 percent in Germany, in part because the country still relies heavily on coal as a result of Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022.

‘Creating jobs’

Following a drop in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 when the pandemic slowed economic activity, Germany’s CO2 emissions actually jumped four percent in 2021, said Habeck, as demand rebounded and a lack of wind increased the use of fossil fuels.

Turning to other sectors, Habeck said Germany would help fund investment in hydrogen and offer financial support for industrial companies making the switch to greener production processes.

To boost the use of electric cars, Habeck said Germany would need to install 100,000 charging points annually by 2030.

Seeking to allay fears that a greener economy would upend Germany’s traditional industries, Habeck said climate protection would spur innovation “in a way we haven’t seen in this country in a long time”.

“We will renew our industries, and that means creating value and jobs.”

Habeck said he aimed for the necessary legislation for his proposals to be passed this year.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s next government unveils coalition pact

By Michelle FITZPATRICK

Member comments

  1. All this rhetoric about transforming Germany to a green economy by 2030 lacks is unrealistic. It’s going to take years to replace fossil fuel with renewable energy.

    And phasing out nuclear plants without a suitable replacement? This is going to drive up already spiraling costs to heat homes and power businesses as coal becomes the primary substitute. Going forward, what’s the solution? More windmills?

    Germany should take France’s lead and invest in nuclear technology to provide its energy. I believe over 70% of France’s electricity comes from nuclear plants. It’s clean, renewable and cheaper.

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WILDFIRES

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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